The United States Department of State has responded to the events in the Lachin corridor. The US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price posted a tweet, which was later retweeted by the US Embassy in Azerbaijan, with a translation into Azerbaijani: “Closure of the Lachin Corridor has severe humanitarian implications and sets back the peace process. We call on the government of Azerbaijan to restore free movement through the corridor. The way forward is through negotiations.” A number of media outlets also quoted Price’s comments at a press briefing, “We’ve seen reports of disruption to energy infrastructure – any disruption to energy infrastructure could precipitate a humanitarian crisis, especially as we’re entering the winter months. If deliberate, it’s unacceptable to target the civilian population of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
We regret to say that Mr. Price and his entire agency, known in Washington as “Foggy Bottom”, first of all, do not have a very good grasp of the situation. Secondly, they are demonstrating double standards, and that is putting it mildly.
As has been repeatedly stated in Azerbaijan, the road was blocked not by the Azerbaijani environmentalists, but by the Russian peacekeepers. There are numerous videos on the social media and in mass media that clearly show people standing on the road, with tents on the side of the road at best, but soldiers from the Russian peacekeeping contingent are already digging trenches, have brought heavy equipment, are setting up modular barracks, etc. Moreover, the picketers themselves have repeatedly stated that they are willing to let civilian and “humanitarian” vehicles through. Is the US Department of State unaware of this?
Further, the Azerbaijani authorities did not make any decision to close the Lachin corridor. The environmental activists outraged by Armenia’s “environmental terror” are picketing here. The State Department is not aware of this either? Most importantly, we remember how fervently the US Embassy demanded that the right of citizens to freedom of assembly be respected. After every attempt by the radical opposition to stage a rally not where the authorities wanted it, but where the radicals themselves wanted it, American diplomats issued similar statements. What about now? Freedom of assembly applies to the Azerbaijani radical opposition in Baku, but not to the environmental activists in Shusha? Are you for democratic principles or are you demonstrating your priorities in Azerbaijan’s domestic politics? In diplomacy, this is called interference in internal affairs.
It would be all the more interesting to get a response from the United States to the ongoing Armenian “environmental terrorism” and to the plundering of Azerbaijan’s natural resources. Mr. Price carefully avoided this topic. But this is a case when silence is obviously not golden.
Finally, the matter of gas supply. Before stating something like that from a literal and figurative high ground, State Department officials should have remembered their high school physics course. They also should have taken a look at the news from other regions of Azerbaijan. There has been a cold snap here, with snow in the mountains, which is causing gas supply disruptions in many regions, not just Karabakh. Where, incidentally, Armenian radicals blew up the pipeline themselves last year and blamed it on the Azerbaijani side.
We would advise American diplomats to educate themselves on the situation before going out to the microphones or on Twitter.